In many cases, the distance between the offices of marketing and the operations staff is too far. When it comes to loyalty programs, Marketers can fall into the trap of missing executional realities—including the ability to turn front-line staff into evangelical brand ambassadors.
Neglecting to include front-line representatives and other key stakeholders early in the loyalty program design process can lead to poor promotional execution of campaigns, unchecked accountability and other issues. There also can be a lack of clarity and continuity of expectations, especially with new hires. Then, as competing business priorities arise, the program becomes little more than a sideshow over time.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our recent Loyalty360/Bond Brand Loyalty webinar, “Measure Twice, Cut Once—Get it Right From the Start!” provided a case study of a leading North American retailer whose loyalty program has set an industry gold standard. It’s not just that enrollment goals for the entire first year were met within the first month. It’s also that front-line staff were and continue to be enthusiastic participants themselves, continuing to create excitement, share tips and engender loyalty with customers.
A funny thing is happening in the loyalty industry. Consider the average North American consumer is enrolled in a record 13 formal programs that include typical features like monetary rebates, points and discounts to lock members in and keep them coming back. Now consider that actual participation in those programs (that is, customers engaging and making purchases) shrank 14% from the previous year, according to the 2015 Bond Loyalty Report.
The widespread availability of these programs is outpacing consumer demand. This oversupply is creating a growing sense of customer indifference toward the most potent mechanisms that differentiate a brand.
Funny, right? Not so much.
Just the other week, the Boston Consulting Group announced that Tesla had joined Apple and Google at the top of an annual ranking of innovative firms. In fact, Tesla raced into third position from the 41st position in just two years. As a Tesla owner, I am not at all surprised by this rapid leap to third place. Such acceleration is highly becoming of a brand that boasts a 0–60 miles acceleration, in just under three seconds.
Have you heard the news? This year will be the year of mobile!
We have been hearing this phrase uttered every year for at least the last five years and yet, somehow, we are still not prepared. We are barely scratching the surface of what is possible with mobile and are expecting big things, which are not going to happen by themselves.
We are aware of the consumers’ love affair with their mobile devices. According to Pew Research Center:
Also, quite importantly for marketers, consumers use their mobile phones while they are shopping.
A few months ago, I was asked what my vision of the future of marketing would be for when my 3.5-year-old son becomes an adult. This sparked my imagination and I felt compelled to share my vision of the future of marketing. Being a data-driven marketer myself, I realize that this vision is slightly utopian, and I don’t know how many years it will take for this vision to be realized in reality. Regardless, I would love to play a key role in making this dream come true.
The young man asking this question elaborated to ask whether I believe my son will be bombarded with too many messages and too much information when he comes of consumer age, which frankly I believe has already started. My simple answer at the time was “no.” By the time he becomes an adult, all content will be curated for and by him. Even today, we have the technology to personalize all content. Just a few years ago, this meant knowing who the customer was and targeting the message to her. In this day and age, we can go far beyond knowing “who.” We can push personalization to “where” and “when.” With the consumer carrying her mobile phone on her person virtually 24 hours a day, I know not only who she is, but I know where she is and even the time and the weather in her exact location.
A few months ago when I purchased my Tesla Model S, I had no idea that Tesla had a loyalty program. Perhaps I was distracted and mesmerized by the brilliance of the technology housed in this vehicle. Maybe my attention was diverted as I was infatuated by the gorgeous design of the car. Or was I overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of never again having to fill my car up with fuel? As a loyalty practitioner, how could I have missed this, as loyalty is part of my very DNA?
As I continued to engage with the brand, it became evident that Tesla has a very clever and covert loyalty program. In fact, every Tesla owner is a member of the Tesla loyalty program, yet nobody has ever heard of the Tesla loyalty program. So how can a brand’s loyalty program exist if their customers have never heard of it, don’t recall enrolling in it or participating in it?
The 2015 Loyalty Report saw an increasing number of people opt-in to a variety of loyalty programs in the past year, and revealed the extent to which programs are effective in influencing customer behavior show no signs of diminishing.
What are the implications of the Plenti launch on May 4th? While the U.S. marketplace has distinct differences compared to other countries where coalition models thrive, one can suspect a lot of attention against this landmark initiative. Coalition, by design, has an inherent power of helping partners acquire new customers by harnessing each brand’s customer pool. It can also move market share away from retailers with standalone programs, as customers tend to gravitate toward programs that alleviate the need to carry multiple cards, and collect multiple currencies. Last, but not least, coalition tends to accelerate members’ currency-earning power by getting them to their rewards quicker.
American Express shook up the loyalty landscape last month when it announced the launch of Plenti, a coalition loyalty program that allows members to earn and redeem points with various brands—including Macy’s, Rite Aid, Nationwide, and AT&T.
This is significant because the US has traditionally been unfriendly territory when it comes to coalition loyalty. Let’s examine some of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of coalition loyalty and why it hasn’t taken off in the US.
This past Wednesday, American Express made an historic U.S. customer loyalty announcement revealing that it is launching a coalition loyalty program called Plenti in the U.S. this coming May. Why was this announcement so historic? Well for one thing, coalition loyalty has thrived for decades in other parts of the world, including Germany, the UK, the Middle East, New Zealand, and just north of the U.S. boarder in Canada. Strangely enough, it has never really caught on here in the U.S.